Final Report

FBI Case Filing System Fail

  1. Problem Statement and Understanding: Clarity of problem statement; understanding and familiarity with the topic. – Nicole
  2. Integration Issues: How were the SDLC integration issues identified – My Part and PowerPoint
  3. Problem Analysis: What was the problem – Analysis involving problem break down and detailing – Allison
  4. SDLC Issues: Why did the problem come about – Analysis focusing on 3-4 SDLC issues selected by the team – Stephanie
  5. Conclusions: How accurate and relevant are the conclusions? How consistent are these with the analysis performed? – Christine
  6. Lessons Learned: Lesson learned from working as a team on the selected system project (2-3 paragraphs) – what worked and what did not work. – Christine

Lessons Learnt: What did the team learn by doing this project. – Nicole

Introduction: Nicole

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Virtual Case File System can be evaluated as an IT systems integration failure. This example relates to our class discussions about stakeholder requirements, design and implementation planning, the importance of testing, and proper application management. The Federal Bureau of Investigation can be defined as an “intelligence-driven and threat-focused national security organization with both intelligence and law enforcement responsibilities that up until 2001, documented all of their compiled files about cases by hand.” ( Although this project was kicked off in early 2000, this antiquated technique became extremely challenging for the United States government after the attacks on September 11, 2001. The FBI controlled hard copy case records about al-Qaeda’s U.S. activities, but had no electronic means to access them. This issue found itself at the top of the list for Congress and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as it became more superficial that the FBI must improve its information distribution competences to remain effective.

The government provided approvals worth over $400 million dollars to improve the case filing technology, eventually called the Trilogy Information Technology Modernization Program. The strategic package was to be installed in three different portions; including hardware, the FBI’s intranet and local area networks for information sharing, and software applications including the Automated Case Support System to support the hand-written case files by contractor Science Applications International Corporation. The original purpose of the software was: to create a search function within all case files, web-enable existing applications for transitional purposes, improve distribution competences both inside and outside the FBI’s databases, provide access to authorized information from both internal and external FBI records, and create investigative and case management tools to predict crime patterns through pre existing cases. On paper, this plan was estimated to take about 3 full years, but with stress from Congress to utilize these tools amid war, requirements were overlooked, planning steps were skipped, and deliverables missed their mark significantly.

The FBI’s Virtual Case File System failure can be attributed to our class discussions throughout the semester. Stakeholders of this project were unable to clearly define their desired outcomes, leaving the much for interpretation. This provided limitations during the planning phase of the Software Development Life Cycle. These requirements had also changed multiple times throughout the SDLC, leaving developers unsure of what was expected. Testing of these applications was also very minimal because of time to deliver. Lastly, throughout the duration of this project, the ownership of the Trilogy project was transferred to multiple stakeholders within the FBI. By understanding the problem, analyzing both integration issues and SDLC issues, and providing understanding how this issue affected the overall outcome of the FBI’s Virtual Case File System, our team can draw conclusions about why it is imperative that requirements and stakeholders are clearly defined, proper planning occurs, and testing is implemented when necessary.

SDLC Issues:

1.Did not have a complete set of defined requirements – scope creep during the life cycle. (module 2)

2. design/implementation plan – unrealistic goals/deadlines. Lack of plan/methodology (module 6) outsourced to 3rd party

3. Lack of prototyping and testing. They did not roll out new the system. They simply replaced the old one. (Module 7)

4.Lack of accountability, management and structure / turnover

A projects success or failure can be defined by several factors; was the project completed on time, within budget, within scope and does the final product meet its intended needs. The FBI’s Virtual Case Filing system, is considered a fail for not meeting each of these measures. There are several causes that contributed to the failure of the VCF system.

The most critical cause of this project’s failure is that it lacked a defined set of requirements. The FBI knew they needed a modern case management system that would eliminate their current, cumbersome and time consuming process and the VCF system was intended to offer Agents a “user-friendly format for inputting investigative and intelligence information into his or her computer.” However, the FBI failed to define the scope and requirements with the contractor at the start of this project. As this project progressed, the scope grew by about 80% since the initiation of the project. This was partially due to modifications of the initial design concept due after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. More importantly, this is due to the lack of requirements and This not only proved that requirements were not defined, it also consumed increased project costs and delayed the project schedule and completion time.

At the start of every project, requirements should be identified, clearly defined and documented to ensure the project remains on track and performs as intended. Requirements should also be monitored and assessed throughout a project’s lifecycle. This will ensure that the project remains within scope and that requirements are not added, removed or modified during the projects design.

Another issue that resulted in this projects failure is that the project team did not have an effective development plan/methodology in place. There are a number of approaches to implementation of system development life cycles. Selection of a SDLC methodology is dependant on the circumstance. Some factors that should be considered when selecting a methodology include; clarity of user requirements, familiarity with technology, system complexity and schedule visibility. Requirements are what leads to systems architecture and methodology. Therefore the FBI’s lack of requirements is what led to their lack of methodology.

Lack of accountability/ structure/turnover ?

Lastly, the final issue that contributed to the failure of this project was the lack of effective prototyping and testing during the project’s lifecycle. After defining the requirements for the project in November 2002, the FBI believed they were on the right track to deliver the project by December 2002. However, when the product was received the FBI identified almost 400 problems with the software. When the FBI presented SAIC the corrections that were needed, SAIC asked for an additional $56 million and an additional year for completion. Had the product received sufficient testing throughout the development process, this setback could have been avoided. Testing is the systematic search for defects in a projects deliverables. The process of testing requires examining outputs, comparing the results against predetermined expectations and requirements, and analyzing any variances. Inadequate testing can result in several problems and costs during a projects SDLC. In this case, it cost the FBI time, money and additional work.


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